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Wayne's Words: Joliet’s other haunted house

Wayne Horne | 3/22/2018, 8:15 a.m.
A haunted house will open in part of the former Collins Street prison this fall but some residents are forgetting ...

Excitement abounds in the City of Joliet in anticipation of being known as the city of haunted prisons. Well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it does seem to have lit a spark not seen since the baseball park was opened in 2002. Back then Joliet city fathers were touting the city as rivaling Las Vegas with the amount of entertainment venues available to the populace. Racetracks, casinos, a baseball stadium, a water park and now the haunted prison experience. Although the city doesn’t own the casinos or the racetracks they are major contributors to Joliet’s bottom line.

The baseball park and the water park cost more to run than they take in but they do add some brochure ambience to Joliet promotions. It remains to be seen how much ambience will result from the haunted prison experience.

The uproar over the haunted prisons seems to have pushed a much more important project out of the public’s awareness. The public housing complex formerly known as Evergreen Terrace has recently passed to control of the City of Joliet. The complex is now called RIVERWALK HOMES. The old Evergreen Terrace signage remains on the site, but a small obscure sign on the side of the administration building identifies the complex with the new name.

The city is partners with a private sector management company known as Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation that is responsible for managing the complex on a day to day basis. The new corporation was formed to protect the City’s taxpayers from any potential liability in the event of any missteps that may occur. This is a unique arrangement according to Holsten. There is no other partnership venture in the country like it.

The City Council has yet to be assured the revenue from the housing complex is sufficient to pay for the cost of buying it and maintaining the high living standards promised when it was taken over from the former owners. In addition, the City is required to submit a renovation and improvements proposal to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by September 30 of this year.

The proposals submitted by Holsten to the City Council back in 2015 for that purpose ranged in a cost of $140 million for full redevelopment to $45 million for a partial renovation. The city, if HUD approves, may not do anything to the property for many years, but that would defeat the original purpose of buying the property to improve living conditions.

Whatever happened to sticking to the core functions of a city government: police and fire protection, public works maintenance of streets, and sewer and water upkeep.

The city currently is maintaining a $53 million budget reserve, but the question is for how long with all of the new responsibilities being taken on?

One last thing…it is interesting that many of our nation’s youth, with the support of many adults also, continue to demonstrate and propose requirements that are designed to curtail gun violence. The opposition to any sensible gun control remains exceptionally strong. A few weeks back this column contained several statistics highlighting some of the consequences of firearms violence. Another school shooting took place again just this week.